No matter where you are or how much you enjoy your own company, you can never really go through life completely alone.
Community is an essential part of the human experience. No man is an island, after all, as the adage goes. A community is a group of people with shared stories and experiences so strong that they leave their imprint on each individual and become part of their identity.
Communities exist everywhere, and now businesses are exploring how they can use them to reach community members and potentially turn every customer into a kind of influencer. This type of community marketing leverages social connection to improve brand loyalty, community building and customer relationships.
In this post, we will explore this concept and look at great examples of building brand communities and social media marketing that helped big-name brands achieve success.
When adopting a community marketing strategy, businesses aim to create an engaging brand presence through community building or interacting with existing consumer communities.
Due to the way we use the available technology today, community marketing efforts usually happen online. These consumer communities are typically found in discussion forums such as those on gamer platforms or retailer associations, as well as Facebook groups or other social networks frequented by consumers like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.
These communities serve as an avenue for consumers and retailers to interact with one another freely, without barriers. Community members can express their ideas and concerns about the brand and its place in their daily lives, giving companies an insight into their target customers that they’ve never had access to before.
In order for this interaction to work well, brands need to respect this dynamic and encourage honest and open communication within the community, as this will provide the most valuable information about the brand's target audience.
Community marketing is excellent at tapping into people's emotional and social needs, especially those surrounding a brand's products or services. This knowledge becomes invaluable when the time comes to plan and launch a new product.
Through these genuine interactions, existing and potential customers feel more connected to the brand. They are also more likely to continue their patronage and even recommend it to their social circles, in effect creating an advocacy relationship with your product.
Although not as popular as other digital marketing strategies, community marketing has a lot to offer in helping businesses of all sizes achieve their goals. If you're not convinced yet, we've listed below our top five reasons community marketing is good for your business.
In the United States, businesses spent over $225 billion on advertising in 2020. By 2024, this figure is expected to reach $322 billion.
The many benefits of community marketing strategies come at a reduced cost, especially when compared to traditional advertising and digital marketing campaigns.
Both community marketing and traditional advertising require strategy and brainpower, but community marketing strategies cost much less to implement. Your brand doesn't need to pay massive amounts of money for advertising space or airtime, leaving you with more opportunities to utilize your budget while offering personalized, top-performing customer support.
With the vast amount of choice available on the market, customers have less incentive to stick with a specific brand when it no longer serves their needs. Without any direct connection to your customers, a few bad reviews could turn some people off your brand and have them looking elsewhere.
Community marketing relies heavily on being part of an organic community and being active in it. These direct interactions with your customers will develop better relationships, thus increasing customer loyalty. When customers feel like a brand genuinely cares about them and their opinions, they’re more likely to stick by it.
Aside from developing brand-customer relationships, community engagement also helps customers develop relationships with one another. This community identity encourages brand loyalty and enthusiasm, which ties the group together.
One hallmark of every successful business is its ability to grow, change and improve to satisfy its customers. How do you get an honest and concrete assessment of your business' performance? By asking your customers, of course.
Spending time in these communities gives brands an excellent sense of what customers value about their products and services and the parts they don't appreciate. For example, they might love your products but think your customer support could do with some improvement.
According to the Guardian newspaper, online complaints multiplied by eight times between 2014 and 2015, indicating that a disgruntled customer can potentially spread a lot of damaging text across social media before you even become aware of it. Your community offers them a direct route to direct their problems so that they don’t need to spread their dissatisfaction far and wide.
Getting feedback from your brand communities ensures that your steps towards improvement will directly serve your customers, making your strategies more intentional and effective.
As time passes, businesses will inevitably face challenges in the market and developing trends in customer preferences. Therefore, brands must be consistent yet flexible enough to keep up with the changing times, especially if longevity is one of the goals.
A brand that plays to its strengths by engaging with its community ensures its relevance within its particular industry.
Consistently listening to and engaging with your customer base helps you shape your brand into what your target market responds best to and, in turn, the industry your business serves.
Focusing on community marketing strategies will help you gain the insight that informs company innovation and continued relevance within your industry years down the line.
Traditional advertising can still be effective, but a lot of audiences are becoming desensitized or even wary of it. According to market research firm YouGov, 50 percent of American consumers who are aware of traditional advertisements do not trust them.
Cases of identity theft and massive data collection from websites and online platforms have also increased people's wariness of their data being used for online advertising. This shift in public opinion makes it essential for brands to adapt and explore other, less traditional marketing approaches.
Despite being relatively underrated, many entrepreneurs, as well as traditional and e-commerce brands, have already been using community marketing strategies to strengthen their business and build a group of people who become a band of loyal customers.
Through community engagement, these brands have been capable of establishing a strong community to back their products and services through the years, maintaining a solid customer base and catapulting them to even greater success.
The brand name Starbucks has become nearly synonymous with coffee shops worldwide. A significant factor contributing to their success is their strong community marketing practices.
Starbucks has several community marketing initiatives, and its hashtag strategies are legendary, but its rewards program is also a great example of smart community marketing.
In this program, customers can earn stars through buying Starbucks products, playing games, and attending events. Loyal customers can then use these stars to get different rewards. The company also offers birthday treats to each member on their special day.
These personalized rewards and experiences helped Starbucks create a strong brand community that exists today, more than 50 years later.
Apple is by far the biggest tech company in the world. Part of what made it so successful is its strong and dedicated user base.
How did Apple get such customer loyalty that its products now come at a premium price? By focusing on the user experience.
One major factor ensuring the strong brand loyalty of Apple users is that the brand showcases the overall experience of using its products. Each product in their catalogue is optimized to work well with one another.
This shared experience has generated a passionate user base that shares knowledge and support with one another for their gadgets and experiences with the brand.
Waves is a company that makes professional audio software used by anyone from hobbyists to Grammy Award-winning producers.
The company has created Waves Audiophiles, a Facebook group where users of the software can share their knowledge and expertise.
Group discussions aren't limited to the Waves software, though, but also span general music and production topics. By encouraging this inclusivity, the group has enabled a solid community of musicians and producers to thrive, providing a knowledgeable, committed and engaged community presence that the brand can tap into.
This Danish toy company is about to celebrate its 90th anniversary this year. This longevity could be attributed to the many dedicated Lego enthusiasts, hobbyists, and collectors it has amassed through the years.
Their most prominent community marketing initiative is Lego Ideas, where fans and customers can suggest ideas for future sets that the company could manufacture.
With athleisure and clean, active lifestyles on the rise, Lululemon has been on top of current fashion and lifestyle trends for several years.
Staying true to their niche, Lululemon has organized various fitness events that their customers can enjoy as perks, such as free yoga classes or festivals where their community can pursue fitness activities together and socialize with one another.
Initially based in Paris, the beauty retailer Sephora has grown to feature around 250 brands, with more than 2,600 branches worldwide.
Personal hygiene and beauty often go together and are ingrained in many people's lives. Sephora recognized this fact and launched the Beauty Insider community, a membership platform where customers can exchange questions and share ideas and beauty recommendations.
This membership platform consists of smaller sub-forums such as Ratings and Reviews, Beauty Talk, and Beauty Board, allowing members to explore various topics in the realm of beauty.
Now, more than a century since its inception, Harley Davidson has grown into the most iconic motorcycle manufacturer in history. It established itself as the motorcycle brand representing a free and adventurous lifestyle.
Through the Harley Owners Group (HOG), members can share their passion for motorcycle rides and adventures with fellow Harley Davidson owners and enthusiasts all over the world.
Harley owners can join group meetups, rallies, and exclusive, member-only events and services through this group, strengthening their community bond.
Pro Tip: “One of the most powerful tools that marketers have when it comes to building communities is the support of social causes. People naturally form strong bonds when it comes to supporting causes they are passionate about.”
Building a solid and loyal community doesn't come overnight. Like other marketing campaigns, community marketing strategies often span a significant period, as the quality of the connection is just as important as the number of new customers that initially join your community.
Below are some tips to keep in mind when planning and executing your community marketing strategy. These will help your brand ensure authenticity and consumer trust.
A thriving brand community will definitely involve many passionate members and customers. Engaging with them will not only maintain their positive perception of your brand but will likely attract existing and new customers.
One way to showcase your community members is by leveraging user-generated content (UGC). This is content created organically by your customers, thanks to their profound appreciation for your brand, products, or services.
These posts are found on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, mainly through brand-related hashtags.
You can interact directly with these posts - and, therefore, your customers - or use this content to promote your brand further and enhance your marketing campaigns.
Using UGC in your marketing and advertising efforts is also a great way to spice up your promotional content. Promoting real people from your brand community lends a sense of authenticity to your business, which is difficult to replicate with overly-produced brand content.
Aside from improving how your brand is perceived externally, this practice also strengthens your existing relationships with your customers. They will feel like your brand genuinely cares about what they have to say (and your brand should care!), encouraging them to continue doing business with your company and empowering them to provide more positive and honest feedback.
Many brand decisions involve a multiple-step process, the first of which is usually market research. For example, if your cosmetics brand plans to manufacture and launch a new line of lipsticks, it's essential to research what the market is looking for in a lipstick.
What shades and formulas are trending or about to trend at the moment? Who is your target customer? How will your product stand out from the competition? How are you going to market this new product?
Your existing brand community would be the perfect focus group in which to gather consumer opinions and test out your ideas.
One example is using social media polls or contests to help your brand make a product decision. Using our cosmetics example, your brand could post a poll or contest on what to name a specific shade of your new line of lipsticks.
Asking for your community's opinion and then acting on it means your customers impact your company's decisions. Involving them makes them feel valued as customers and community members and helps you create a better product or launch a more effective campaign.
In recent years, we have witnessed increasing social and political unrest. With the world facing a global pandemic, an economic crisis, and cases of racism, police brutality, and gun violence, taking a stand has become of great value to many people.
The volatility of today's socioeconomic environment has made being politically and culturally aware a significant priority for a large proportion of society. This can have such an impact that many consumers deeply consider a company's values before supporting or doing business with them.
These days, consumers expect businesses to be culturally and socially engaged. According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, 86 percent of consumers expect CEOs to speak out publicly about relevant societal issues, such as the pandemic, job automation, and local issues, among others. Sixty-eight percent expect CEOs and businesses to step in when the government isn't perceived to be doing its job.
In the past, successful marketing strategies provided solutions to customers’ problems. Now you need to take that a step further. To establish and maintain a loyal community surrounding your brand, you must learn to genuinely care and address the issues that your customers face.
One way to do this is by partnering with organizations that work directly on a particular issue or with a specific marginalized group. They benefit from your company's assistance, and your customers see you as an ally.
Growing a successful brand community requires commitment. Progress doesn't just come out of nowhere; your company has to have a hand in nurturing it over time.
If you're running a Facebook group or other online forum for your brand community, make sure to post and interact with the members consistently. Doing so lets your audience know who you are and realize the value of being part of a group with you.
Constantly participating and engaging in your community allows your brand to build a strong presence within the group and improve your relationship with your customers. Online marketing authority Gary Vaynerchuk has sustained his highly successful online presence for more than 10 years through personally showing up and engaging with his followers and fans.
Spending time with your online brand community also enables you to learn from your customers through your observations and interactions with them.
People value genuine connections, even with the brands they plan to engage with. The quality of the relationships you create is just as important as the number of people that become part of your community.
Coming across as genuine towards your customer community involves many different factors. The easiest way is to actually be sincere and interested in your customers and their concerns.
However, doing this as a brand can be difficult. Being genuine requires a degree of intimacy, which could be challenging to achieve if you're a faceless business entity.
Aside from the tips we mentioned above, an effective way to give some personality to the face of your business is by creating a solid brand identity. This involves creating a recognizable online and offline presence by using a consistent image, language, tone, and personality in every interaction.
Building genuine relationships with your audience is not only useful within your community marketing activities, but it also means they are receptive to your more traditional campaigns.
Building genuine relationships and active participation within your community are both essential, but these actions also need to be intentional.
All your marketing efforts, including community marketing, aim to increase leads and sales or deals for your business.
Both offline and online brand communities will ultimately serve as an avenue for you to promote your business and your new campaigns, products, services, or updates on events. Remember that word-of-mouth can be just as effective as the most expensive advertising campaign, so it’s important to locate those customers who will become advocates for your products.
You can find new like-minded potential customers in person at meetups or rallies. You can even utilize other online forums to help build your successful brand community.
Regular promotions keep your audience engaged and updated on your company's activities, giving them more chances to participate and connect with you.
Community marketing might seem like a mountainous challenge, especially if you're a small business just starting out in your industry. It can be daunting to try to build your own community. However, it’s an essential part of reaching new potential customers and growing your company, as many of our examples have shown.
A strong brand community behind your company will help ensure stability and longevity in your business. It will enable you to innovate and adapt in real-time while keeping customer loyalty amidst changing demands and circumstances.
To give your business a better grasp on your brand communities, you can use an app like Archive, which automates much of the workload when it comes to social media listening and leveraging user-generated content.
One of the great perks of the software is you can find out when customers share ideas about your brand on different social media platforms. You can then use this information to make the most of your social media marketing and other campaigns.
When you’re ready to build your own community, check out our article on Community Marketing - How To Use It to Grow Your Business to get you up to speed fast. Whatever the size of your business and whatever stage you have reached in your marketing plans, the Archive blog is full of relevant and timely advice to help you make the most of your digital marketing efforts.
Brand communities are powerful because they tap into the social and emotional needs of human beings. Leverage your strategies now with Archive!
A brand community becomes successful when it is engaging, personalized, collaborative, and helpful.
Having a community surrounding your brand helps ensure your company's longevity. A community helps your brand maintain relevance and innovate with the times.
One of the most critical elements of a community is a shared experience. This creates a bond between community members and your brand.